A MUM whose son hanged himself after just three nights at a failing prison has told of her heartache.
Lee Evans, 32, was jailed in January for a petty crime. He was due to serve six weeks inside but was dead before the weekend.
Officers found him hanging in his cell from bedsheets he had tied to the bars. It was the fifth time an inmate had taken his own life within a week of arriving at Swansea jail, south Wales, in the past four years.
Lee’s mum Angie said: “From when he went in, his mood changed very quickly. This is somebody who hasn’t been looked after properly.
“How could Lee, or all the others before him, be allowed to hang themselves in their cells in a modern-day prison?
“Surely with the amount of suicides the place has had they would’ve learned and put measures in place to stop young men from taking their own lives”
“Surely with the amount of suicides the place has had they would’ve learned and put measures in place to stop young men from taking their own lives.
“The bottom line is it’s not fi t for purpose. If you had a string of suicides in a factory or a hospital or another workplace they’d have been shut down or subjected to major health and safety reforms.
“But that hasn’t happened. And I was the one who had to take a knock on the door to be told my son hanged himself. It’s devastating and beggars belief.”
The prisons watchdog says the overcrowded Category C jail is failing to respond effectively to high levels of suicide and a surge in self-harming.
Inspectors found the prison had not fully acted on recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), which investigates deaths in prisons.
Figures show HMP Swansea is the fifth-most overcrowded jail in England and Wales. It holds 431 inmates despite being designed to accommodate just 268.
A third of prisoners arriving at the jail said they felt depressed or suicidal, but inspectors noted that mental health provision “did not meet the high level of need”.
More than half of inmates said they had problems with drugs and 32% had problems with alcohol on arrival – higher proportions than comparable jails.
Mental health nurse Angie, 53, said: “My son was always skating on the edge – flitting from town to town and getting in trouble. He had a high-risk lifestyle.
“But he wasn’t malicious or a hardened criminal by any stretch. I always had it in the back of my mind that a knock on the door might come, but never in a million years did I think it would come from prison officers. That’s the one place I thought he would be safe.
“None of the reports into suicides has addressed the one thing that needs addressing – the environment.
“I’m a mental health nurse with a background in secure facilities so I know that the one thing you have to do is take way the opportunity for self-harm.
“That means ligature-proof barring and special bedsheets. Yet when I arrived in my son’s cell there was a mirror with breakable glass and glass shutters for the bars – not to mention the bars themselves and the sheets. It was a self-harm paradise.”
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This inspection of Swansea prison should compel ministers to act without delay. Swansea is one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country, where men find it easier to get drugs than clean clothes and bedding.
“Most concerning of all are the terrible findings on self-injury and suicide, which show that this prison is failing to learn lessons from past mistakes and men are dying as a consequence.
“People should not be sent to prison to die.”